Sarah, My Friend

Yesterday I sadly said goodbye to my lovely friend Sarah, who lost her fight with breast cancer. Throughout her illness Sarah remained positive, determined to live her life to the full, provide for her family and to have no regrets. She was a shining example to all those who knew her and will be missed by so many people. So this is my tribute to Sarah, an amazingly beautiful and brave friend.

When colleagues become friends

Sarah and I had been colleagues for some time, working within the same department, never working on the same team, but passing the time of day, chatting whilst we worked and occasionally working on an enquiry together.

Then, a supervisor made a decision that would change both our lives forever. The teams were shuffled around and Sarah and I began working together on a day to day basis. We were both a bit put out at first, not because we didn’t like each other, or couldn’t work together, but because we were both quite happy on our own teams, we had our own friends, but we decided to make the best of it and crack on with our work.

I am eternally grateful for that decision. Working with Sarah brought us closer and we soon realised that we had quite a lot of things in common, crafting, reading, musicals travelling, amongst other things, but we also had the same ethics. We both valued family life, knew how important our friends were and were both determined in our work to provide the best service that we possibly could to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

When the teams were re-shuffled, Sarah and I continued to be firm friends both in and out of work. We were able to talk about anything, had some amazing experiences and supported each other through some really difficult times.

A shock diagnosis

Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was called for an early mammogram due to a trial in the local health authority. She had no symptoms at all, but it was discovered that her cancer was already well developed and she was swiftly taken into hospital for a mastectomy, followed by gruelling rounds of chemotherapy. Although Sarah knew that her cancer was incurable, she certainly didn’t take that lying down. She did this without complaining, always smiling and having a firm belief that when one treatment wasn’t working, there would be another one that would.

She was determined to live her life to the full and no matter how ill she was she always had time for her family and friends. She cared for both her girls and her mum, despite being exhausted some days. She told me often that she was not afraid of dying, but was always concerned about the effect that her death would have on other people. She was reluctant to let people know when she was suffering and always had a goal to work towards.

Sometimes there were tears, when she was clearly worried, particularly in relation to her two daughters, but generally when you asked her how she was she would say that she was doing alright.

The hardest time was a few weeks ago, when her treatment was stopped and she knew that there was nothing else that could be done. She was initially rocked by the news, but again set about making plans for her family, dealing with unfinished business and trying to make things as easy as she could for those around her.

Sarah never stopped fighting and was determined to keep active for as long as possible and it was only in the last few days of her life that she was unable to do this. She was able to be cared for at home and spend the time that she had left with her family and close friends. I feel blessed to have been able to spend time with her, not only in the last few weeks, but over the last few years. I am also really grateful to her family for allowing me to be there and to the other friends who have given unending support.

A lesson in living a good life

I have learned a lot from being friends with Sarah. Mostly that you should live a good life, not waste time complaining about the things that life throws at you, but to accept those things and do all the things you want to do anyway.

It is true that none of us know how long we have left with our family and friends. Sarah taught me that it’s important to make each moment count. Take pleasure in the little things. Make goals for your life, no matter how small they are. Don’t let small things grow into big problems and don’t put off things that you really want to do. Try not to bear a grudge and remember that a small  kindness can be a huge thing to someone else.

I am definitely a better person for knowing Sarah and I hope that some of her kindness and selflessness has rubbed off on me.

Long lasting memories

I didn’t want to end this blog on a sad note as Sarah would definitely not approve of that. Everyone that knew her will have their own memories, from nights out, lunches at the Ivy, theatre trips, Christmas do’s and many other celebrations. There are so many memories, some of which I talked about in my previous blogs,  but here are just a couple of my favourites

Sarah wanted to raise money for Breast Cancer Care and talked myself and Sharon into taking part in the moonwalk. This was a 26 mile walk, through London, in the middle of the night, wearing a decorated bra. This was a tough but amazing experience. Sarah encouraged us around the whole 26 miles, never losing her enthusiasm. When we reached the finishing line the following morning, Sarah was the only one out of all three of us that was still able to walk around. It was through this experience on the night and the training before hand that I got to know Sharon and we have been able to support each other and I hope we will continue to do so in the future.

In February this year Sarah and I went on an overnight stay to a spa. We had a lovely relaxing couple of days in some very luxurious surroundings. We were able to spend some quality time together, talked, laughed and cried. As Sarah was feeling quite tired at this stage, we weren’t exactly party animals and ended up tucked up in bed at 9pm, with a bottle of prosecco, watching Love Island.

 

I know that it will be hard over the coming weeks,  months  and years as we will all miss Sarah so much, but I will do my best to remember the good times, to focus on the laughter rather than the tears and to live the best life that I can.

Sleep well Sarah you’ve earned your rest.

I will look for you in the colours of the rainbow, the brightest star and the prettiest snowflakes.

Best Laid Plans

Well it’s definitely been a strange few weeks. There have been lots of emotional ups and downs. Like a lot of people in many countries around the world, life has taken a completely different direction to the one that I had planned when I retired in January. At the moment all travel plans are postponed and all social gatherings are off. The gym that I have been attending regularly has now shut under the government guidelines and the freelance work that I had planned has been cancelled for now. So it’s time to take stock, rethink and make some new plans.

A Last Weekend Away

A few weeks ago, I managed to spend a lovely weekend away in Northumberland, with my husband, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. During the week before, we were unsure whether we would be going or not.

My really good friend Sarah, had been having treatment for cancer, which had recently been stopped. She has been such a strong lady over the last few years since being diagnosed, but this really knocked her confidence. She was really struggling with some of her symptoms and also with her emotions. I was really undecided about going away, but once things were properly in place for her being looked after I decided to go.

Sadly my brother-in-law also lost his lovely dog Ruby during the week before we were going. Ruby, a Staffie,  was 12 years old and had been an important and loved member of the family. My youngest daughter was terrified of dogs when she was younger and initially would not have anything at all to do with Ruby. However, over time Ruby won her over and was such a gentle dog that they became good friends and the fear of dogs was solved. So much so that she has been asking to get a dog of her own for ages.

We had a few tears whilst we were away for the weekend, particularly walking along the beach without Ruby which was really hard. But we also had a lot of laughs. We talked a lot, reminisced and planned for the future. One of the things that often comes up when we are away is how important family and friends are, why you should do the things that you want to do, not to put them off, as you never know what is going to happen in the future. Little did we know then how our lives were going to change over the next few weeks.

Stepping Into The Unknown

In the current situation, none of us have any idea what the future holds, but in some ways that is no different to our normal lives. Yes the world has changed dramatically and we really have to adjust our lives to deal with the unknown. But do any of us ever know what life will bring. In our ordinary world we don’t know whether we will get ill, how long we will live, whether our jobs are secure, whether our holidays will be cancelled etc

I am normally a worrier and I know that I deal with some things better than others. If  can do something about it, then I tend to go headlong into organising and “doing”, which usually helps me to cope. There is also usually an end game, which helps to focus. But it is the things that I have no control over that I struggle with, where I can’t do anything to change it and I don’t know where the end is.

A couple of days ago I had a real flash of anxiety over a number of things that I have absolutely no control over, mostly other people’s attitudes and actions.  So I had to give myself a good talking to and am now concentrating on trying to be positive and make the most of the situation that we find ourselves in, accepting that I can’t change it and I don’t know when the end will be. But it will end and I am hopeful that I will emerge a stronger and better person.

Settling Into Retirement

It’s now six weeks since I retired from full time work. People did tell me that I would be bored, that I would miss work and that I would struggle without belonging to the Police after being “institutionalised” for thirty years. Well so far I have to say I haven’t felt any of these things. I have managed to fill my time well, have taken on some ad hoc work, am spending time working on our craft business as well as starting some of the things on my bucket list.

 

 

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Starting those things that I always wanted to do

One of the things that I have wanted to do for quite some time, is to learn to play the piano. I am pleased to say that I have now had four piano lessons and am surprised at how well I am picking it up. It takes a lot of concentration, but it’s really wort it as I am enjoying it so much. At the moment I am practicing on a keyboard loaned to me by a friend and on my mum’s piano, but if I continue to enjoy it over the next few months I am going to treat myself to a digital piano.

Something else that I also wanted to do was to write more. I have now been writing my blog for three years, but I have also bought myself a book of writing activities and tasks, which has encouraged me to write a bit more.

There are still a few more things on my list and I will let you know how I get on these.

Rudding Park Spa Hotel in Harrogate

A couple of weeks ago I had a relaxing overnight stay at Rudding Park in Harrogate with my lovely friend Sarah. We found a deal on Travelzoo, which was excellent value, which we just couldn’t miss. We had a little retail therapy first in Harrogate and then drove up to Rudding Park in the afternoon. On arrival our room wasn’t ready, (it had been set up as a double rather than a twin), but we were treated to a complimentary glass of prosecco whist we waited.

We then dropped our things off in the room and went into the spa for the rest of the afternoon. The spa itself is beautiful, very airy, clean and so relaxing. The hydrotherapy pool is so lovely and warm, but is outside so you get some lovely fresh air whilst enjoying the warm relaxing water. Inside there is a panoramic sauna, foot spas, an oxygen room, a sunlight room and a steam room. We tried everything, before going to the wellness area, which has amazing relaxing rooms, including visual, audio, as well as a sleep room and a comfortable are just to relax and have a cup of tea.

Later in the evening we had our dinner in the clocktower restaurant, which was included in the deal from Travelzoo, so we only had to pay for our bottle of prosecco. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was very chilled.

The following morning I went into the indoor pool for a swim. There was no one else in there, so I managed to get a good few lengths in before breakfast. We had breakfast in the Horto café, which is part of the spa. The breakfast was really nice and was also included in the package.

We then made use of the spa again before checking out and going home. We both felt completely relaxed and had lots of chance to chat and just chill out.

Lunch on a train

Today me and my husband took his parents for lunch on Embsay Railway in North Yorkshire. We had booked it a couple of weeks ago, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the flooding. The trip was a birthday present for my father in law (It was his birthday in January)

The train carriage was lovely and warm, which was great as it was a windy day and it was quite chilly waiting on the platform. We were shown to our table which was set with cutlery and cups and we were offered tea and coffee. Once the train set off, we were then brought our lunch which was a Yorkshire pudding filled with meat, vegetables and new potatoes. As I’m a vegetarian, I had mine without the meat. The train journey was about half an hour and we stopped at Bolton Abbey for about twenty minutes, so we could get off and stretch our legs, look around the station and the shop.

The train then set off back to Embsay and tea and coffee was served on the return journey. Towards the end, the manager came out and spoke to all the diners, explaining why he set up the business and how it had grown over the last few years. He also told us about the other events which are available on the railway.

The trip was well worth the money and was just long enough for my in laws to be out and about before heading back home.

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A Weekend In Hawes

This weekend we were lucky enough to spend a long weekend with friends and family in a lovely little house in Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales. This was to officially celebrate my youngest brother’s 50th birthday. It was actually his birthday the week before Christmas, but chose to book a weekend in January, which is a really good idea, as it’s always nice to have something to look forward to in January as it can be quite a depressing month.

Ingleton Waterfalls Walk

On Friday morning, it was quite a grey day, but we drove up to Ingleton and walked around the Waterfalls Tral. This is a 7km walk, on a footpath, which takes you around the waterfalls and river in Ingleton. The trails are privately owned, so there is a charge for walking the paths. A ticket office and turnstile has now been built, which takes a little away from the scenery and makes it more commercialised, however once you get past this, you are on the paths and it is beautiful scenery. The paths are quite steep and slippery in places and there are quite a lot of steps.

We all kept up a steady pace and managed to get around the train before the weather closed in and it became quite cold and damp. There was of course the obligatory stop off for hot drinks and cakes in the village, before we made our way to Yarn House in Gayle, which was the cottage that we had rented for the weekend. The house is a lovely three storey cottage, which overlooks the river. The rooms were cosy and there was loads of equipment in the kitchen.

There were eight of us and on arrival it is customary for us to draw lots to decide who is having which bedrooms. Once this was done and we had got unpacked, the men went off to the pub. Allegedly they were only going to the shop to buy some lottery tickets but they were out a few hours and had a pint in each of the pubs. The ladies stayed in the house, apparently we were supposed to be making tea, but we ended up drinking prosecco instead. Once the men came back from the pub we managed to sort out food and enjoy our meal with a few more glasses of wine.

A windy walk

On Saturday morning we set off from Hawes to do a circular walk which normally includes Hardraw Force. It was quite windy and cold, but was ideal weather for walking. We had booked lunch for 2pm, so we knew that we needed to be back for then.

The walk was just over 6km and wasn’t too hilly.  Hardraw Force itself is again  privately owned and there is a charge to go and look at them. As we had limited time and the fact that the Falls themselves were not part of the route, we chose not to walk down to the Force to walk back up and complete our route instead.

It was a really nice walk with some lovely scenery. Unfortunately the mist started to come in, so the views were not quite as clear as they normally would be.

After the walk we drove to Tan Hill Inn, which is the highest pub in England. We had reserved a table and the landlord was pretty friendly when we arrived. The pub was quite busy, as it is a well known attraction. The pub itself is quite rustic, but a also a lttle run down. The furniture was well worn and the whole place looked in need of a little work. The food on the whole was good, but one of our dishes came after the others had finished eating and when it did come it was a bit of a let down.

We drove back to the cottage afterwards and had a restful evening watching films and having a few drinks.

A relaxing Sunday

On Sunday, we had a bit of a lazy morning then went down to the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes. There is a lovely gift shop and visitors centre hers, although the creamery was not producing any cheese that day. We looked around the visitors centre and tasted lots of samples of cheese, as well as buying some to eat later.

After this we went for a short walk around the village. It was short mainly because there were hardly any shops open and also because it was very cold, windy and drizzly. We had a table booked at the Crown Pub in Hawes. This was a lovely pub, with the coal fires blazing. The food was great and the staff were really friendly.

After another couple of drinks in the pub, we made our way back to the house and spent the evening relaxing, playing cards and eating cheese and biscuits.

It has been as great weekend, with lots of laughter, great food, great company, fresh air, beautiful scenery and a chance to recharge our batteries.

 

 

 

 

Happy Retirement

This week, after 30 years of being a Police Officer, I retied!

I joined West Yorkshire Police on 15th January 1990, as a fresh faced 22 year old. I was fairly naïve, not particularly streetwise and had led a sheltered life, being the only girl, with three brothers. However I wanted to help other people, do something worthwhile and I honestly thought that I would be able to change the world.

I may not have changed the world over the last 30 years, but I know that I have changed some people’s lives for the better. There will be those that were not happy with the decisions I made, the action that I took, or the outcomes of their reports to me, but on the whole i know that I have always done the best job that I could, have been honest and always done what I thought was right.

I am not sad at retiring and I have been looking forward to it for a while. I will miss my friends and colleagues, the interesting work, the feeling of making a difference but I also am ready for a change and am looking forward to doing lots of new things. I am not going to be completely retired, as I still have various avenues for work, but I will no longer be working full time and I will no longer be a Police Officer.

Lucky or Entitled

Over the last few months I have had some very interesting comments about retiring at such a young age. Lots of people have said how “lucky” I am, how nice it must be to get a “free pension” and how unfair it is that they have to work much longer than me. I do not believe that I deserve to retire more than anyone else, but I know that I am getting what I signed up to 30 years ago and that it certainly isn’t for free. I am entitled to retire at this age because I signed up for 30 years. I have paid a large amount of money in contributions for the last 30 years. I have stuck with a career that has been difficult at times, frustrating and had ground me down to the point of losing my self confidence and belief that I was doing a good job. For all the missed birthdays, Christmas days, school sports days, concerts, late nights, early mornings, long hours and lack of sleep. For being spat at, sworn at, called names, complained about and wondering how I was going to get through, for this I now feel entitled to retire.

A Job Worth Doing

I have loved my job for the most part. Although the above paragraph points out the negatives, there have been lots of positives too. I have spent a good majority of my service as an investigator within safeguarding units, investigating crimes and protecting the most vulnerable people in society. For the last four years I have trained others to conduct those investigations.

I have met some amazing people along the way, both those that I have worked alongside and the people who I have worked to protect. There have been some amazing Court results and some real disappointments. Most of all I know that I have worked my hardest to protect the public and detect some of the most heinous crimes.

So now I intend to take a well earned break, before I move on to pastures new.

Thank you to the people that I have worked with for their support over the years. Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate with me and for the lovely gifts and cards. Remembering fondly those who were with me 30 years ago when I joined the police, or who I have met along the way, but are no longer with us.

Most of all a huge thank you to my family and friends outside the Police who have supported me physically and mentally. I could not have done it without you!

 

A Long Weekend In London

I had arranged to go to London to visit my eldest daughter who moved back there in March. She came home last summer after working abroad, but it was always her intention to go back down to London when she had saved up enough for a deposit. She had come home a couple of weeks ago as she went to look at bridesmaids dresses with her cousin who is getting married next year. Other than that I had not seen her since March, so I was really looking forward to seeing her and spending some time in London.

A Relaxing Train Journey

My husband normally drives us down to London, but on this occasion I thought it would be nice to travel by train. I booked the tickets in advance which is always much cheaper and you also book seats which means you are not going to end up standing all the way. The journey from Wakefield to London Kings Cross is only 2 hours and it was a really smooth, easy journey.

We arrived in Kings Cross at 3 and then took the underground to where our daughter lives on the outskirts of London. We had time for something to eat and a quick freshen up before we headed back out to the theatre

The Book Of Mormon

I absolutely love The Book Of Mormon. It is such clever writing and the songs are amazing. I have seen it once before, but my husband hasn’t. Once again the performances from everyone were amazing. The singing and acting is superb and the dancing is very slick. It’s a real mood lifter and has a good moral, despite the adult themes and very sensitive subject matter. I was so glad that I got to see it again and I certainly wasn’t disappointed the second time around.

After the theatre we walked in to Leicester Square to have a drink at one of the bars. It was still really warm and there were lots of people still around. We got a round of drinks and sat outside one of the bars. It was a lovely evening and it was great just people watching.

Pride In London

The following day was the Pride Parade in Central London . It’s something that I have wanted to see for quite a while, especially as my youngest daughter has been to the Leeds Pride over the last couple of years and has said what an amazing experience it is.

We travelled down to Trafalgar Square, where there was live music playing and we were able to sit on the steps and watch it on the big screen. Once we knew that the parade was approaching we walked down to the road. The parade was amazing, with all different walks of life represented. The crowd was huge (the news said the following day that there were 1.5 million people there!) It was great to see people dressed up, joining in the music and celebrations and cheering the parade on.

It had a real feel of celebration to it, but also a really serious message about tolerance, acceptance and understanding of other people’s lives. I have been fortunate to love and be in a relationship for many years with someone who is accepted by my friends, family, work, faith and society in general. I know that some of my friends are not so fortunate and that life can sometimes be really difficult for them. It would be an amazing world if people were free to love the people that they love, without being judged or condemned.

9 to 5

That evening we went to see another theatre production, 9 to 5. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I have to say that it was amazing. The singing was impressive as was the dancing. The story was really easy to follow and it was also very funny, but with a really topical theme of equality. One of the most impressive performances was by Bonnie Langford, who is so fit and flexible and such a strong performer, as well as being really funny. I was also impressed with Amber Davies, who had an amazing voice and was so much better than her “Love Island” persona. Again it was a really uplifting show and so enjoyable, leaving me feeling very upbeat and happy.

Red Bull Soapbox Race

On Sunday we travelled to Alexandra Palace to watch the Red Bull Soapbox Race. We have loved watching this as a family when it is on the TV and we have always said that it would be great to go and watch it live.

After a bit of a walk to the venue from the underground station, we arrived at Alexandra Palace. The day was amazing, really well organised, well set out and very entertaining. We managed to get a spot where we could see the start of the track where the teams do a short performance, we could see them coming down the track and then over the first water jump. We could then see the rest of the race on a big screen.

For anyone who does not know what the race is about, it is basically teams that build a structure on wheels and then push it down a big ramp, where it picks up speed and has to be steered through obstacles and over various jumps. Needless to say, some of them crash, some of them fall apart, but some of them do make it to the bottom in one piece. It was a great day and really amusing.

Heading Back Home

Om Monday, after a lovely breakfast it was time to head back home.  We got the train back to Wakefield and were home by the late afternoon. We quickly unpacked and put some washing in. I felt like I had had a really long weekend and packed so much in to it.  But by this point I had blisters on my feet and felt like I needed a rest before going back to work! Well worth it though

 

 

 

Happy Birthday To Me

So last weekend was my birthday . It has actually turned into more of a “birthweek”, as the celebrations seem to have gone on for much more than a day. I can’t believe that it is now two years since I began my blog and celebrated my 50th birthday.

Escape Rooms

I know that Escape Rooms have been around for some time, but I have discovered them only recently. Our daughters bought us tickets for one at Christmas and then we went to one in the Lake District shortly afterwards. They really grab my attention, as I love puzzle solving, it really gets you thinking and it also gets you working as a team.

On the day of my actual birthday, I had to work, but in the evening had arranged to go out for a lovely meal with my husband, brother and sister in law. We then went on to play one of the escape rooms at the Escaporium at The Piece Hall in Halifax. I had chosen the Halogorian, which was based on the history of Halifax. We had a really great night and also escaped with eight minutes to spare. We were pretty pleased with ourselves I have to say!

Brunch at The Ivy

The following day, I had arranged to go for Brunch at The Ivy in Leeds. This wasn’t particularly for my birthday, as it had just been a date when everyone was free. I had been to The Ivy in Harrogate before, which I had really enjoyed and the one in Leeds didn’t disappoint either.

I think that prior to going, I would have said that I am not an Ivy type of person. I would have expected it to be overpriced and pretentious, but in fact it is a really classy restaurant, with lovely food, in a great setting and not too expensive at all.

Kinky Boots

The next event was to go and see Kinky Boots at Leeds Grand Theatre. I had heard the soundtrack on a number of occasions and it certainly sounded upbeat. I knew the basics of the story, as I had seen the original film several years ago. It is about a traditional shoe factory which is struggling to stay in business, but the owner meets a drag queen and discovers a niche market making boots with heels for drag queens.

The show was absolutely amazing! The singing blew me away, the songs veered from uplifting full song and dance numbers to full on emotional ballads. The dancing was so impressive, particularly from the “Angels” who danced expertly in high heels. The story teaches us a lot about accepting people for who they are, not assuming things about people and getting to know people and what makes them tick.

The whole show left me feeling completely elated and I wanted to dance and sing all the way home (and at work for the whole day after)

A Sunny Easter Holiday

You would think that all that would have been enough, but the week following my birthday was the Easter weekend. It was an absolutely beautiful weekend, with the sun shining and hardly a cloud in the sky.

On good Friday I spent a couple of hours helping at messy church, which was held outside thanks to the beautiful weather. The families that came had a great time and it was lovely to see them enjoying the sunshine and learning about Easter.

Over the rest of the weekend, we had a craft fair, spent some time sitting out in the garden with family (drinking slightly too much prosecco) and walking in the Yorkshire Dales on Easter Monday.

All in all I had a great birthday, on the day itself and for all of the following week. When people tell me that birthdays are just for children and that you get too old to celebrate them, I have to disagree. Birthdays are there for celebrating and enjoying, despite your age!

 

A Fitting Farewell

I’m not sure if it appears strange to write in a blog about a funeral. The last few weeks of my dad’s life were really hard and I thought that the funeral would be too, but although it was a difficult day, I write this feeling very peaceful and calm, honestly believing that my dad is now at rest. Yesterday, the funeral was very sad in many ways, but mostly it was a celebration of his life and a chance for us to share our memories.

Well Made Plans

Although dad was a great storyteller, he was never someone who really discussed personal issues or emotions. I guess he comes from that era of “stiff upper lip”. However, a few days before he died, during the night he sat in the living room with me and my mum and told us what he wanted us to do when he died. This made planning dad’s funeral a much easier process.

He said that he didn’t want a massive fuss, he didn’t want a fancy coffin or to spend a fortune on flowers. He wanted to be cremated.  He chose the music that he wanted, said that he wanted to go to church, but most importantly of all, he wanted us to be together as a family and he wanted to go on a bus.

Dad was a massive fan of buses and trams throughout his life, so it was inevitable that this would appear somewhere in his final wishes. We discussed as a family that it would probably mean hiring a bus and travelling together as a family to scatter dad’s ashes. However when we began to discuss this with the funeral director, it became apparent that in the world of funerals, almost nothing is impossible.

Special Messages Or Coincidences

Yesterday dawned, clear, bright and sunny. It reminded me of days when we would be complaining that it was cold and dad would say “It will be too hot to walk about by dinner time”. I was awake early and was watching the news. There was an interview with Michael Caine and during it they showed a clip of the film “Zulu”. This was my dad’s favourite film ever! At that moment in time I felt that dad really was watching over us and that all would be well.

Just What He Wanted

All the family met at my mum’s house. We were all quite anxious. Me and my brothers had all chosen to be involved in the service. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who doubted that I would actually be able to hold it together at the time.

Dad’s hearse then arrived. This was a vintage red London bus. It was really emotional to see my dad’s coffin inside initially, but then we knew that it was the right thing. He would have loved travelling on the bus and it also meant that as a family we were all able to go to the funeral together.

When we arrived at the church it was moving to see how many people were there. The first hymn was “The day thou gavest Lord is ended”. My older brother, sang the first verse as a solo. A very brave thing to do, which he managed with hardly a wobble in his voice. I manged to read a poem ” Remember me”, by Anthony Dowson. I had a few wobbles, but managed to get through it with a few pauses for deep breaths. My youngest brother then read a eulogy, which contained some lovely memories of dad. Again he held it together throughout.

We then had the hymn “I vow to thee my country”. We picked this as dad had been a rugby fan and liked a rousing patriotic hymn.

Afterwards we had a slideshow of photographs which were accompanied by Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez. Dad asked for this music as he loved the film “Brassed Off” and this particular part, where the piece of music is referred to by the band as “Orang Juice”. The photos were very moving, but there were also some really happy memories of dad and of us together as a family.

At the end of the service we left the church to  “Land of Hope and Glory” Dad had asked for this music, which we were we going to sing as a hymn, but we realised when making the plans that it is not actually a hymn and that other than the chorus from last night of the proms, no one actually knew any more of it.

After church we went to the crematorium, which was the hardest part of the day. Mum had chosen two songs from my dad’s favourite singer, Doris Day. On arrival we had “Que sera sera” and on leaving we had “I will always love you”. It was difficult leaving the crematorium, knowing that we had finally said goodbye to dad.

 

 

 

 

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Getting Together

We then went on our final bus journey to the local Golf Club, to celebrate dad’s life and share memories of him. It was lovely to chat about the good times we have shared as a family and as friends, what we will do in the future and to know that we had done the best that we could do to give him a good send off.

Families can be funny things and our family is no different. There are always people that you are closer to and those that are not so close. There are celebrations, disputes, disagreements, laughter and tears. There are those that you get on with really well and those who you have little in common with. There are friends who support you through the hardest times who become as close as family. There are those friends that you don’t see for ages, but are there when it counts. Yesterday,  we all worked together as a team and made it a day to remember, just as my dad wanted.

A Few Thank You’s

In ending this I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has sent good wishes, cards and flowers to me and my family. For those who have helped to support us over the last few weeks in every way. For those who have put up with the varied emotions that I have gone through, particularly my husband and children who have had to live with me.

In particular I would also like to thank

The nurses and carers that looked after my dad in his last days

Andrew Box and everyone at the funeral directors, Eric F Box, who did everything possible to grant my dads, last wishes, making the planning less painful and helping the day go smoothly and of course, finding “the bus”

Father Martin Naylor and Tineke Bentley and those at Batley Parish Church for the warm welcome, prayers, eulogy and commendation

Hanging Heaton Golf Club, for the food, drinks and lovely surroundings

And lastly to my mum, who is an amazingly strong lady, who has lived through so much and faced it with strength and dignity, an example to us all.

 
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When “The System” Fails

I haven’t written a blog for some time, as you read on, the reasons will become clear. I write this with the sad news that my dad died yesterday after a frustrating and difficult few weeks, which were made harder by failings within the “system” and a lack of communication. This is not meant to be a rant and it certainly isn’t a slight on anyone who works in any of the areas that I have mentioned. As you read on, or if you have been through this experience, you will know that people working within “end of life care” deserve a medal.

Early Days

Almost three years ago, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer which soon spread into his bones. He was treated with hormone injections and also had some radiotherapy for the pain in his neck and back. He is 83 years of age and has a number of other health problems too. Sometimes he was really positive, but other times it felt like he had given up. In any event he has managed to live fairly well for three years. with a few hiccups along the way.

Long Hospital Stay

My dad had started falling a bit at home so about 7 weeks ago we got him a care alarm, to help him and my mum. Within days he had fallen. My mum used the alarm and an ambulance came and took him to hospital. He didn’t have any injuries, but was very confused and disorientated. Then followed a long stay in hospital, various infections and another fall.

Some of the individual staff in the two hospitals that he stayed in were committed, caring and compassionate and a credit to their profession. Some were not so good, including staff that were disinterested, patronising and sometimes downright rude. I know that everyone is busy and overworked, I work for the public sector myself, and know how frustrating it is to be lacking in resources,  but the treatment of vulnerable elderly people in hospital should be absolutely top notch across the board.

The lack of information for us as a family was frustrating, leaving us feeling that we were being annoying or difficult if we asked questions about his care. A decision was made that he was medically fit for discharge about three weeks ago and arrangements could be made for him to come home.

I may be naïve, but I thought that being elderly and having a terminal illness would qualify you for care, but apparently not. When I started contacting Social Care and other organisations, I soon realised that the first thing that agencies want to know is how much money they have in the bank.

After a fall in hospital, where dad tried to get out of bed on his own when the fire alarm went off, dad was placed on a ward with constant supervision. He had stopped eating at this point and varied from being alert and chatty to being confused and disorientated.

Last Friday the decision was made that dad could be taken home. No one gave us any information, choices or assistance. We only found out he was being discharged when we went to ask staff what was happening. We were told that dad would get carers four times a day, but didn’t need any other care as he could mange quite well and would need to deteriorate a lot more before he required other help

The week from hell

My dad was brought to my mum’s house at 530 on Saturday evening. Mum (who is 82 years old) was at home on her own. Dad was sat on the settee and left with a bag full of medication. I went up to stay with her as I was worried that she may not be able to manage him.

At 730pm dad decided that he wanted to go to bed, so me and mum helped him into bed. I then started a series of phone calls and found out that no one within the community. who would be responsible for assisting us, had been informed that dad had been discharged from hospital.

The first night was extremely hard. Dad was in pain, distressed and confused. He wanted to get in and out of bed all the time, assisted by me and mum. He didn’t sleep at all. By the next morning we were exhausted and honestly considering putting him in a nursing home.

During the morning, the carer from the end of life team arrived, as did the district nurses. They were so supportive and gave us so much more information and assistance than the hospital ever had. It was the first time that any actually told us that dad had a matter of weeks to live.

With the assistance of these marvellous people and support from members of the extended family, me, my mum and brothers manged between us to look after dad over the next few days. It was one of the most difficult and exhausting things that I have ever done. There was some really traumatic times, but also some really warm and loving chats.

Dad died, peaceful at last, at his home with his family. There were times when I thought we would never get through it, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I have to say a massive thank you to the many carers and nurses who have spent time with my dad and my family over the last few days. The job that they do is worth more than any money could buy.

A last word

I would say to anyone who is caring for elderly or sick relatives, that it is worth the time looking on the internet or speaking to organisations and finding out your options and entitlements. This will make things so much easier to get the help that you need early on. I’m not sure if it’s the same everywhere, but we were truly in the dark about what was happening to dad. Had someone explained the kind of behaviour and symptoms he might display, before sending him home from hospital, those few days would have been so much easier.

Also I would say that you find out who you can rely on very quickly and that some people distance themselves very quickly. I can understand why some people don’t want to visit a person who is dying as it isn’t a nice thing to see. I also understand that it may bring back memories of your own loved ones. I know that it’s not always easy to find the right words to say to a family who’s loved one is dying. Just remember that it can be a very lonely place. Sometimes all you need to do is call in and say hello, hold someone’s hand or give them a hug. It means the world and, as hard as it is, it will be the best thing that you could ever do.

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone’s Talking About….

Well another month has gone by and a few things have changed. We have had another baby in the family, which is always a lovely thing.  She is my great step-niece (if that’s an actual thing) I haven’t met her yet, but from the photographs she looks beautiful, so it will be lovely to see her. Unfortunately last night my brother told me that she is in hospital, so I’m keeping my fingers (and everything else crossed) that she is okay.

My eldest daughter has returned to live at home, after working abroad for a few months, she was really unhappy, so is now back with us. It’s nice to have her home, but I’m sure it won’t be long before she finds some work again.

A trip to Portugal

As our daughter was working out in Portugal, my husband and I decided to go out and visit her for a few days. We stayed at the Vila Gale Cerro Alagoa in  Albufeira. The hotel was really lovely, set in really beautiful grounds with a really big pool. The rooms were really nice and we had a room overlooking the pool. We only had breakfast there, which was amazing. There was some much delicious food to choose from, both healthy and not quite so healthy.

When we left the UK the weather was amazingly hot, so arriving in Portugal to an overcast, but warm day was a little bit disappointing, but as the day wore on, the sun came out and it stayed hot, but quite windy for the rest of the days we were there.

Albufeira was quite nice, although quite a busy place. We only got to see a small part of it over a few days, so it’s really difficult to give a proper opinion. Maybe we’ll go back one day and see a bit more of it.

Everyone’s talking about Jamie

On Sunday afternoon I went to see Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. This was recorded from the theatre, but shown at the cinema. I have heard some of the music from it previously and knew that it was about a sixteen year old boy who has the dream of becoming a drag queen.

I was absolutely blown away by the show. Everything about it was absolutely amazing, from the set, the singing, acting and dancing. Everyone who was in it was so talented. The story has you laughing one minute and crying the next. It is a really feel good show, but with the message that you should follow your dreams and accept people for who they are.

I have to say that I would love to see this live now at the theatre, so I’ll add this to my “must see” list.